Previously on Let’s Read The Name Of The Wind:
“So, Lanre and the Creation War. An old, old story.” His eyes swept over the children. “Sit and listen for I will speak of the shining city as it once was, years and miles away . . .”
It’s story-time with Skarpi. I’d like to remind you that we just had a long, pointless mythology dump three chapters ago. Let’s see if this one involves giant hammers as well.
Once, years and miles away, there was Myr Tariniel. The shining city. It sat among the tall mountains of the world like a gem on the crown of a king.
Imagine a city as large as Tarbean, but on every corner of every street there was a bright fountain, or a green tree growing, or a statue so beautiful it would make a proud man cry to look at it. The buildings were tall and graceful, carved from the mountain itself, carved of a bright white stone that held the sun’s light long after evening fell.
The story of The Name of The Wind is never particularly original, but at least it usually doesn’t feel like Rothfuss just took another fantasy novel and swapped the names out. Usually.
This whole section and a few other bits of history/mythology are the exception, as they feel very similar to the infodump segments in Jordan’s Wheel of Time novels which if you haven’t read them are big on fantastic lost cities filled with white spires and crystalline fountains. Even the names Rothfuss chooses for his people and places are similar to the ones in Jordan’s books.
The big difference is that the story-time segments in Wheel of Time were generally far more entertaining than whatever was going on with the characters in the present, whereas the story-time segments here just get in the way of the plot.
Selitos was lord over Myr Tariniel. Just by looking at a thing Selitos could see its hidden name and understand it. In those days there were many who could do such things, but Selitos was the most powerful namer of anyone alive in that age.
“Namer” better not be the official term for people who can do that.
Selitos was well loved by the people he protected. His judgments were strict and fair, and none could sway him through falsehood or dissembling.
“Strict but fair” has to be the most cliched descriptor for a fantasy monarch. They only seem to come in three varieties- insane and monomaniacal, strict but fair and weak and ineffectual.
At this time there was apparently a huge war going on involving a vast empire with much cities burning and villages being looted and general wailing and gnashing of teeth. Selitos kept Myr Tariniel safe with his vaguely defined magical powers which apparently allowed him to see an attacking army coming from miles away. Which is actually a pretty neat power in a fantasy setting. I don’t think a lot of people realize just how much modern militaries rely on technology to get information about their surroundings and what their enemy is up to. Having a birds-eye view in medieval times probably would have made you invincible.
The other cities who didn’t have Selitos and his special eyes had to rely on traditional military might, including a dude called Lanre who was the biggest badass in the world.
Lanre had fought since he could lift a sword, and by the time his voice began to crack he was the equal of a dozen older men. He married a woman named Lyra, and his love for her was a passion fiercer than fury.
Assuming I don’t have to make a joke about why “a passion fiercer than fury” is terrible writing.
Lyra was terrible and wise, and held a power just as great as his
Terrible and wise is also a huge descriptor cliche. We’re just hitting all the bases here, aren’t we?
Lanre is a warrior class and has +10 to sword damage whereas Lyra put all of her EXP points into magic which lets her stop men’s hearts and call up thunderstorms and shit. They fought side by side to beat the empire back and rekindle hope in the common people and all that.
Then came the Blac of Drossen Tor. Blac meant ‘battle’ in the language of the time, and at Drossen Tor there was the largest and most terrible battle of this large and terrible war
Someday I want to gather every fantasy author in the world in one room and try to make them understand that they don’t have to have conlangs in their novels.
Really, you don’t. Tolkien’s ghost is not hovering over your shoulder ready to strike you down for not fulfilling some sort of arbitrary world-building quota. No one is going to think less of you for not mashing together random letters and calling it a language. The worth of your writing should be judged on how well you can tell a story, not how much bullshit you can pack into 800 pages.
The “blac” came to a standstill with horrific numbers of soldiers dropping like flies on both sides. Lanre sacrificed his life to defeat a huge monster of some kind and secure victory for his side.
In the midst of silence Lyra stood by Lanre s body and spoke his name. Her voice was a commandment. Her voice was steel and stone. Her voice told him to live again. But Lanre lay motionless and dead.
No, no. This scene isn’t melodramatic enough. This is fantasy god damn it, we can’t have any shred of subtlety! What if the readers don’t know how they’re supposed to feel?
In the midst of fear Lyra knelt by Lanre s body and breathed his name. Her voice was a beckoning. Her voice was love and longing. Her voice called him to live again. But Lanre lay cold and dead.
In the midst of despair Lyra fell across Lanre’s body and wept his name. Her voice was a whisper. Her voice was echo and emptiness. Her voice begged him to live again. But Lanre lay breathless and dead.
So Lyra, strong independent woman that she is, managed to bring Lanre back to life through the power of crying.
The war continued and the empire was slowly beaten back. But then! Rumours began to swirl that Lyra had died and everyone worried this would throw Lanre off his game. So much for them being equals I guess. Lanre came to Selitos and invited him up to the mountains for a talk, then a whole bunch of bollocks happened:
“You have given me enough, old friend.” Lanre turned and placed his hand on Selitos’ shoulder. “Silanxi, I bind you. By the name of stone, be still as stone. Aeruh, I command the air. Lay leaden on your tongue. Selitos, I name you. May all your powers fail you but your sight.”
HOW EPIC. HOW GRAND. LOOK AT ALL OF THE MADE UP WORDS AND MAJESTIC SPEECH.
ARE WE FANTASY ENOUGH YET
Anyway Lanre shouldn’t have been able to do name magic because he doesn’t have name magic powers, but somehow it worked and Selitos was paralyzed. He then watched in despair as a massive army attacked his big fantasy city. See Selitos, this is why you should have brought bodyguards. There’s a reason leaders of countries usually don’t go anywhere without them.
The army burned the city to the ground and the fountains ran red with blood and stuff. The next morning Selitos regained the ability to move and saw a great darkness inside Lanre.
It turns out Lyra did indeed die and Lanre tried to use black magic to bring her back, which predictably didn’t go well. Driven to despair Lanre decided to murder everyone in the world to save them from the pain of living, or something. These people really need to take a chill pill.
Lanre asked Selitos to kill him but his newfound emo-powers are making him invincible.
Lanre’s shoulders bowed. “I had hoped,” he said simply. “But I knew the truth. I am no longer the Lanre you knew. Mine is a new and terrible name. I am Haliax and no door can bar my passing.
So that’s what’s up with Haliax, I guess.
That’s….. kind of a let down? I assumed we weren’t going to find out what his deal was until later. It’s strange of Rothfuss to just throw it out there in a giant infodump for no reason.
Selitos stabbed himself in the eye to awaken his power, or something, and curses Lanre/Haliax.
Then Selitos spoke, “This is my doom upon you. May your face be always held in shadow, black as the toppled towers of my beloved Myr Tariniel.
“This is my doom upon you. Your own name will be turned against you, that you shall have no peace.
“This is my doom upon you and all who follow you. May it last until the world ends and the Aleu fall nameless from the sky”
Sweet merciful Jesus, how can anyone write this shit with gagging? Rothfuss just ramps it up more and more as this scene goes on, throwing out sub-Shakespearean howlers like the following without a hint of self-awareness:
I cannot kill you, but I can send you from this place. Begone! The sight of you is all the fouler, knowing that you once were fair.
I’m not sure if it was apparent under all the snark but I was actually starting to warm to The Name of The Wind quite a bit in the Tarbean sections dealing with Kvothe’s life on the street. This mythology section has completely reversed all of that, and then some.
Anyway Selitos cursed Lanre to have his face permenently in shadow which if you stop to actually picture it would look incredibly goofy and stupid. Then Lanre blew away like ash on the wind or whatever and the flashback mercifully comes to a close.
Kvothe, who doesn’t seem to have noticed the name of his parent’s murderer coming up in the story, talks to Skarpi afterward and Skarpi drops some hints that he knows Kvothe is somehow special.
Oh good, more coy hint-dropping about how awesome Kvothe is. I desperately needed more of that.